Cheap renewables undercut nuclear power
by Paul Brown of the Climate News Network
The technology advances and plunging costs of cheap renewables make base load nuclear power redundant, and cheap renewables are mounting a serious challenge to nuclear power, which in 2017 has had a difficult year.
Key projects have been abandoned, costs are rising, and politicians in countries which previously championed the industry are withdrawing their support. Renewables, on the other hand, especially wind and solar power, have continued to expand at an enormous rate. Most importantly, they have got significantly cheaper.
And newer technologies like large-scale battery storage and production of hydrogen are becoming economic, because they harness cheap power from excess renewable capacity. This latest trend – the production of hydrogen from excess wind and solar power – raises the possibility of replacing natural gas, at least in part, for domestic heating and cooking and for power stations.
The output from renewables can be stored and balanced out. Base load nuclear power is no longer needed
Many existing gas pipelines and domestic networks are equally capable of taking natural gas, biogas and hydrogen, or a mixture of all three.
The speed with which the transition is taking place has exceeded all official estimates. In favourable locations across the world, including the United States, Europe and India, onshore wind and solar farms are the least expensive way of producing electricity.
Even off-shore wind, five years ago more expensive than nuclear power, has developed so quickly that the latest Dutch off-shore farms are to be built without any subsidy at all.
These advances in renewables that are cutting the cost of power are in sharp contrast to continued cost overruns and delays in nuclear power stations. An analysis of countries’ plans for tackling climate change showed that 108 were looking to expand renewables and just nine wanted to build new nuclear stations.
The biggest single blow to nuclear power’s expansion came in August: two nuclear reactors under construction in the US state of South Carolina were abandoned when 40% complete. This was a humiliation for the US giant Westinghouse, already in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings to escape its creditors.
An important political development in 2017 was that for the first time both the US and the UK admitted that their support for the nuclear industry is linked to the need to maintain their military capability in nuclear submarines and personnel. This is key, because both powers have previously claimed that there is no link between civil and military nuclear industries.
Even before their admission it was already clear that the big economies which have no nuclear weapons, like Germany, can see no point in having a civil nuclear industry.
It is now clear that nuclear is ever more expensive, and the cost is growing, while renewables are getting cheaper all the time.
But perhaps most important is that, with the development of batteries, biogas and hydrogen, the output from renewables can be stored and balanced out. Base load nuclear power is no longer needed.
The full report can be seen at https://climatenewsnetwork.net/cheap-renewables-undercut-nuclear-power/ .